Time for a Check-Up: How (and Why) to Do a Brand Audit
Who are you? That simple question is at the heart of defining your brand—the core identity of your company and how it is perceived. The health of your business relies on that perception so it’s important to assess a few key points: How do you want to be seen? Who are you trying to attract? Is it working?
Brands change over time. The image you put forth a few years ago, or even a few months ago, may no longer be what’s needed in the current market. Or perhaps your brand’s image is on track but you could do a better job getting noticed by the appropriate audience. That’s why it’s so important to regularly check in to ensure your brand is meeting current market needs and fits with your existing goals.
That’s where a brand audit fits in so that you can evaluate your company’s strengths and weaknesses—and reset as needed. As explained by Brandwatch, “a brand audit is a detailed analysis that shows how your brand is currently performing compared to its stated goals, and then to look at the wider landscape to check how that performance positions you in the market.”
According to SCORE, a nonprofit business mentoring organization, there are three main areas to assess when conducting a brand audit: internal branding (values, mission, company culture); external branding (logo, website, content marketing materials, social media); and customer experience (sales process, customer service, customer support). A comprehensive brand audit will look at all of these factors to get a full picture.
Marketing specialists often compare a brand audit to a physical check-up. It’s easy to put it off, but if you wait too long, something that would have been an easy fix can become a more complicated issue. That’s why it’s important to continually monitor the health of your brand and to do an in-depth “check-up” at least annually, with an end-of-year analysis making the most sense in order to start the new year off right…and in good shape.
Here, we’ll take a look at eight steps to take when conducting a brand audit, whether as a do-it-yourself endeavor, or when hiring an outside expert to handle it for you.
Eight Easy Steps to Conduct a Brand Audit
1.Look inward and start with the basics.
Look at your “internal” branding, as that sets the stage for any further evaluation. That means examining such things as your marketing plan, mission statement, vision, strategic objectives, selling proposition, company culture, etc. Identify your target market and think about what your brand promises them and how (and if) your plan meets those expectations.
2. Review external marketing materials for consistency in branding.
Compare such branding elements as your logo, sales sheets, business cards, packaging, signage, letterhead and print ads with your company’s digital footprint (i.e., website, online newsletters, email marketing messages, social media presence and content marketing output such as blog posts and case studies). Are all these elements easily recognizable? Do they all tell the same story of your company’s brand? Check for consistency in design style, color choices and tone. Furthermore, do these elements—each on its own, as well as on the whole—speak to your target market?
3. Make use of analytics.
While the “soft audit” steps above may give you a snapshot, they may not provide the whole picture. Numbers don’t lie, so it’s important when conducting your brand audit to incorporate hard data. Tools such as Google Analytics or Semrush, for example, can be used to assess such performance indicators as web traffic, conversion rates, bounce rates (percentage of visitors who enter the site and then leave rather than continuing to view other pages within the same site), and page views.
Additionally, you’ll want to do an in-depth evaluation of your sales data, as well as social media activity and engagement.
4. Review content you’ve created and posted.
Website content, ranging from your About Company summary to blog posts and case studies, are meant to tell a story about you and establish your brand as an industry thought leader. It’s all too easy, not to mention incredibly common, to post something and then just forget about it, allowing your assets to languish. Maybe that content no longer reflects what your brand is today. Or perhaps the bones are good but some of the information is out of date.
A thorough content audit (which can include content marketing audits as well as SEO audits) can be a useful and valuable piece of your overall brand audit. Why? As explained by G2’s Learn Hub, “a content audit is a process for identifying, organizing and analyzing your website content. Content audits are used to determine if your content is meeting your business objectives and discover opportunities to leverage content to meet your goals.”
5. Ask for customer feedback.
No brand audit would be complete without going directly to your current audience. Conduct online, email or phone surveys; look at online reviews and monitor your social media feeds. There’s a lot to be learned from your audience’s firsthand experience with your brand.
You can ask them to describe their impression of your company: What do you do well and what can be improved? Are the expectations they have of your company being met? Ask for specifics. How does your brand make them feel? Inquire about their experience with your competition to discover if there is an unmet need that your company can fulfill.
Additionally, you can survey prospects, those in your target audience who are not current customers. Are they aware of your brand and, if so, what impression do they have?
6. Listen to your employees.
Your employees are the front line of customer experience, so it’s important to ensure they are accurately and positively representing your brand. Plus, they may have insights that top leadership might be missing. Protect their anonymity to get the most honest responses. Can they articulate your company’s mission and vision? Find out what they think of your company’s brand. Do they have ideas for improvement?
7. Check out the competition.
Beyond asking your customers, prospects and employees about your main competitors, take the time to evaluate for yourself the competition’s websites, marketing materials and social media…and even their approach to customer service. Use SEO analytics tools (ex: BrightEdge, Semrush and Ahrefs) to assess what keywords they’re targeting.
Look at online review sites to see what they’re doing right…and wrong…to help identify possible opportunities in your market.
8. Review results and monitor progress.
Now that you’ve gathered the data, review your audit results to identify which of your current strategies are getting the job done and where there’s room for improvement. Take stock of where your brand is today and where you want it to go down the road. Monitor progress on an ongoing basis and find a time during the year—such as the final quarter—to fully engage in the brand audit process.
Regardless of how you choose to move forward, there’s no doubt that a thorough brand audit can help you get a handle of where you are and where there’s room to improve, giving you that competitive edge you need to keep your brand healthy for the long haul.